7 Tips For Mental Health Awareness
The fall and winter seasons bring with them holidays and cooler weather; they also bring with them the possibility of stress. Finals, gathering with family, holiday expectations, travel, making plans for next year—these are all things that can strain your mental health and add to your stress levels like Jenga blocks set on a wobbly tower.
Maintaining an awareness of your own mental state is a crucial part of keeping up your mental health. Much in the same way that a car in need of service will let you know with indicator lights or strange noises, if you pay attention to how you feel you can often get a sense of when you need a mental pit stop. This will help you get yourself in tip-top shape. If you lighten your stress load throughout the year, it can keep it from piling on and becoming unmanageable.
Our Rio Salado counseling team put together tips on how to promote mental health and maintain an even keel. Please be advised, though, that none of these tips are meant to be a cure-all or a replacement for seeking professional help when it is needed.
1. Don’t Skimp On Sleeping
A good night’s rest is essential for our physical and mental health. The average person needs around 6-8 hours a night to run at their full potential. As much as you can, try and get the max hours YOU need to be at your best.
2. You Are What You Eat
There’s an old saying in the computer programming world: “garbage in, garbage out.” What you consume has a major impact on your well-being. A healthy, nutritious diet can do wonders for your mental health. Try to eat healthy and refrain from substance abuse — alcohol, smoking, and drugs can exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems.
3. Give Yourself A Win
Life gives us plenty of losses so it’s important to pick up a wing every now and then. If there’s something you’re good at — a hobby or sport or skill like cooking — make a point of practicing it. Doing something that you have a level of skill at can give you a sense of control and mastery in your life that can center you. Whenever you feel like you can’t do anything right or that things are out of your control, give yourself a win to help right the ship.
4. Get Physical
Sometimes the best way to exorcise your demons is to exercise them. Exercise and physical activity is a great way to both alleviate stress and improve your well-being (both physically and mentally). You don’t have to have a gym membership to get a good workout: long walks, jump rope, or doing yoga by watching classes on YouTube are also great ways to get moving.
5. Spend Time With Other People
Self-isolating often goes hand-in-hand with stress and poor mental health. When we feel bad, we often don’t want to be around other people for fear of being a “bummer” or becoming a burden to them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who care about you, people whose company you enjoy, and spend time with them. A little bit of quality time with other people can help you get outside of your head and give you a fresh perspective.
6. Big Leaps Start From Small Steps
If you find yourself overwhelmed by a task, try and break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. In the words of the late, great Martin Luther King, Jr: “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” This is also good advice to keep in mind if you’re trying to start a good habit like eating better or learning a new skill: doing too much too soon can burn you out and make you give up. So take things step by step, inch by inch, and slowly work your way to the big result you’re trying to achieve.
7. See A Professional
There are limits to self-care. Sometimes you need to see a mental health professional to get yourself back on track. If you’re worried that getting care is out of your financial reach, just know that there are options available to you. Many health insurance policies — including AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Containment System) — provide a mental health benefit. The easiest way to find a care provider is to contact your health insurance provider and ask for a list.
Many providers also offer a sliding scale fee for potential clients who do not have health insurance. In these cases, fees are typically based on one’s income and can be as low as $25 per session.
A third, slightly less expensive option is seeking assistance through one of the university counselor training programs. In these settings, counselors are university students and they are supervised by licensed clinicians.
Another option is reaching out to a crisis hotline or a warm line. There are several options within Maricopa County, including the Behavioral Health Crisis Line, which offers a 24-hour crisis line at (602) 222-9444 as well as a warm line at (602) 347-1100 that is available seven days a week. A full list of Maricopa County resources can be found online.
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender National Hotline (www.glbthotline.org) offers an online chat option through its website as well as a warm line (888) 843-4564 with limited availability.
Veterans can access help through a 24-hour hotline at (877) 424-3838 and/or live chat offered by the National Call Center for Homeless Vets (www.va.gov/homeless).
Remember: The only mistake is not asking for help.
The fear of being stigmatized has prevented many people who are struggling with significant mental health issues from seeking the help they need. Untreated mental illness is just as significant as any physical illness going undiagnosed and/or untreated and it can be just as debilitating.
For more details about Rio Salado counseling services, visit https://www.riosalado.edu/students/counseling-and-career-services or call 480-517-8785. You can also use this form to schedule an appointment: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfyI5VI1sHT9iDdpzveqJ28sN9cJoXEV2rhH5DcW_N17I10NQ/viewform.